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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 137

Verses 1-9

This psalm has no title, but it was evidently composed in Babylon; and it would seem from the latter part, only a little while before Cyrus took the city. It was probably composed by the prophet Haggai, who was born in Babylon. The hundred and forty sixth and two following psalms bear the title of Hallelujah; psalms of Haggai and Zechariah.

Psalms 137:1 . By the rivers of Babylon. The Euphrates, two hundred and fifty paces broad; the flood channels, and a canal from the Tigris, as described in Isaiah 13:14. Jeremiah 1:0. Many of the poor Jews were dispersed to the extremities of the Babylonian empire, and along the towns of the Euphrates and the Tigris. Daniel, and no doubt many of his companions were at Shushan, or Suses; an ancient palace of the kings of Babylon, now the winter residence of the kings of Persia. It is situate on the Caron, about a hundred miles south west of Ispahan.

Psalms 137:3 . Sing us one of the songs of Zion. The celebrity of the Hebrew choir, it is evident, stood foremost in the musical profession throughout the east.

Psalms 137:7 . Remember Edom. It was very wicked in the Edomites to rejoice at the fall of Jerusalem, for they were of one blood: and it was not more than five years before the Chaldeans inflicted the same calamity upon them.

Psalms 137:8 . Oh daughter of Babylon. The capital of an empire is universally considered as of the feminine gender, as, Oh daughter of Zion. The Greek, metropolis, is literally mother city. Ρωμη , Roma, are both feminine. So also was her language of pride: “I sit a queen, and shall see no sorrow.” Happy shall he be that rewardeth thee. This is proof sufficient that this psalm was composed before the bloody city had received her just reward. Old Priam strives in these words to dissuade his son Hector from fighting Achilles in single combat: “Pity an unhappy king, whom Jove, on the last limits of age, has doomed to the bitterest woes. Many evils have I yet to behold; my valiant sons slain in battle, my daughters ravished in my sight, my nuptial chambers disclosed to the foe, my infant offspring dashed to the earth, my people floating in their blood, the wives of my sons led to slavery by the destructive Argives.” [Greeks] Iliad 22. Macpherson.

Psalms 137:9 . Dasheth thy little ones. Isaiah had so prophesied, as in chap. xiii; and so shall all the enemies of Christ be treated, when the days of vengeance shall come from the Lord.

From an original manuscript, by C. Wesley.

Fast by the Babylonish tide, The tide our sorrows made to flow, We dropt our weary limbs and cried, In deep distress at Zion’s woe; Her we bewailed in speechless groans, In bondage with her captive sons. Our harps, no longer vocal now, We cast aside untuned, unstrung, Forgot them pendant on the bough; Let meaner sorrows find a tongue: Silent we sat and scorned relief, In all the majesty of grief. In vain our haughty lords required A song of Zion’s sacred strain,

“Sing us a song your God inspired:” How shall our souls exult in pain, How shall the mournful exiles sing, While bond-slaves to a foreign king? Jerusalem, dear hallowed name, Thee, if I ever less desire, If less distrest for thee I am, Let my right hand forget her lyre; All its harmonious strains forego, When heedless of a mother’s woe. Oh England’s desolate church, if thee, Though desolate I remember not, Let me, so lost to piety, Be lost myself and clean forgot; Cleave to the roof, my speechless tongue, When Zion is not all my song. Let life itself with language fail, For thee when I forbear to mourn: Nay, but I will for ever wail, Till God thy captive state shall turn; Let this my every breath employ, To grieve for thee be all my joy. Oh for the weeping prophets’ strains, The depth of sympathetic woe! I live to gather thy remains, For thee my tears and blood shall flow; My heart amidst thy ruins lies, And only in thy rise I rise. Remember Lord the cruel pride Of Edom, in our evil day, Down with it to the ground, they cried, Let none the tottering ruin stay; Let none the sinking church restore, But let it fall to rise no more. Surely our God shall vengeance take, On those that gloried in our fall, He a full end of sin shall make, Of all that held our souls in thrall: Oh Babylon, thy day shall come, Prepare to meet thy final doom. Happy the man that sees in thee, The mystic Babylon within; And filled with holy cruelty, Disdains to spare the smallest sin; But sternly takes thy little ones, And dashes all against the stones. Thou in thy turn shalt be brought low, Thy kingdom shall not always last, The Lord shall all thy power o’erthrow, And lay the mighty waster waste: Destroy thy being with thy power, And pride and self shall be no more.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 137". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.